There’s More to the Story than Console vs. PC

Christy Smith4 minute read

At CIPT, we have long advocated for inclusion in gaming – whether it be adding subtitles, creating adaptive controller technologies, or providing information to consumers before they buy. We spend most of our time focusing on what brings us together – a love of games, communities, and experiences – that we all share regardless of disability status. Today, though, I want to talk a little about what separates us and why that matters, functionally.

Don’t worry! I’m not going all separatist on you! 

My point today is that there are indeed differences between gaming platforms. Console gaming and PC gaming are different markets. Even within console gaming, each console goes for a slightly different demographic. I’m not yet entirely sure what demographic the KFConsole is going for… but I digress.

PC gaming has historically been the more hardcore and bleeding edge demographic. These folks (broadly speaking) are able to upgrade their hardware incrementally to ensure they have an experience that is specifically suited to them. The games they buy reflect this, usually including far more options than their console counterparts, such as custom control rebinding and graphics options. Modding and hacking is also much easier on PC, and there are many cases where mods and hacks can often provide helpful accessibility features. Because of this, PC gaming can often be the more accessible option for disabled players.

As an example, I recently played through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on the PC, and I was able to edit the game’s files to rebind controls and allow me to maneuver past difficult sections. I am not a programmer, yet I was able to make this modification with a simple Google search and a message board post that described how to do it. This mod made it possible for me to complete the game. I played it as a child, but was unable to complete it. Going back as an adult, it was gratifying to see the progress that has been made. Even with this licensed game from 2004, there are communities online sharing information about how to make the game more accessible. If I played the game on a console, it would take more skill and knowledge to be able to mod the game.

While it may be easier for developers and players to implement certain accessibility functions in the PC version of a game, I argue that the console version is just as important. Because PCs are so versatile and offer so many options, I sometimes find myself falling into the trap of thinking that if players need certain options, they will simply choose to buy the PC version of their game instead of the console version. When I hear 8K graphics or 240fps options, I often find myself thinking “no console gamer cares about that,” when in actuality, these modes may be helpful for accessibility options. I’ve also been guilty of hearing console gamers asking for mouse and keyboard controls and thinking, “why don’t you just go buy the PC version?”

I’m here today to tell you why that line of thought is deceptive.

Of course, many disabled gamers use PCs because of the enhanced options that I’ve already described, and more power to them! Most of the time, I put USB cables in upside down, so I’m very impressed with anyone who knows how to install a graphics card. There is great work being done to provide PC building tutorials and examples from disabled folks, and I only hope this trend continues!

That said, many disabled gamers choose to purchase consoles because they are simpler to operate. To operate a PlayStation, I don’t need to know anything about what a teraflop is or the difference between a CPU and a GPU. I also don’t need to have the kind of initial budget that it would take to build a comparable PC.

Console hardware has long been sold at a loss, meaning that the components and manufacturing cost more than the sales price of the equipment. For console manufacturers, this ends up making them more money in the long run because it encourages people to adopt the console and purchase games, which have a higher profit margin.

Over the long haul, PCs do not necessarily need to be more expensive than consoles because they can be upgraded and replaced component by component instead of all at once. However, as an initial cost, consoles are nearly always cheaper with specs and power being the same.

Disabled gamers are able to take advantage of the cost benefits and convenience of consoles, meaning that while PC games may frequently have more accessibility options, the console version may be more economically affordable. The economic issue is particularly important for the disabled community, which has experienced historic discrimination and lack of access to the traditional job market.

We have discussed this type of economic issue previously regarding the adaptive controller, and the message remains the same. Accessibility is not a simple checklist of requirements and in-game options. There are additional factors that must be considered, including content sensitivities and seizure warnings. Accessibility is a huge undertaking, and it’s important that we continue to listen and educate ourselves. 

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Christy Smith is a visually impaired gamer whose main goal in life is to snag a seat on the metro instead of having to stand so that she can play Switch on her commute. She/her/hers or They/them/theirs

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